“The Book of Delights: Essays” author Ross Gay. Image via Maryland Humanities.
“The Book of Delights: Essays” author Ross Gay. Image via Maryland Humanities.

Maryland Humanities’ pick for the 2021 One Maryland One Book, “The Book of Delights: Essays” by Ross Gay, reflects upon the small joyful moments that are often drowned out by the life’s hectic din.

Maryland Humanities created the One Maryland One Book program in 2007, encouraging all Marylanders to read the same book and join discussions about the work. This year’s theme is “hope.”

“I’m so grateful that The Book of Delights was chosen for One Maryland One Book,” Gay said in the announcement on the Maryland Humanities website. “It feels lucky to get to share this collection of questions and wonderings with you all for so many reasons (one of them that my big brother was an English teacher in Frederick a couple decades ago!) And I’m really looking forward to the conversations we’ll have about the book this fall.”

An award-winning poet, and now a New York Times best-selling author, Gay reminds readers — and himself — to be bask every so often in life’s simple treasures.

“Among Gay’s funny, poetic, philosophical delights: a friend’s unabashed use of air quotes, cradling a tomato seedling aboard an airplane, the silent nod of acknowledgement between the only two black people in a room,” according to the Maryland Humanities website.

Gay will tour Maryland virtually at six events over four days in October. Local universities, libraries, and bookstores will be co-hosting the events, starting off with Salisbury University on Oct. 3 at 1 p.m. The tour will close at the Center for Literary Arts at Frostburg State University on Oct. 6 at 1 p.m.

All tour events are free. Registration for them will go live around Labor Day on the Maryland Humanities website.

Readers can find copies of the book at libraries, bookstores, or downloaded for free off the Maryland Humanities website. Only a limited number of free e-books are available.

Free copies of last year’s One Maryland One Book selection, “The Island of Sea Women” by Lisa See, are also available for download.

Readers who want to participate in discussions about Gay’s book are encouraged to keep an eye on the events calendar, where all book discussions and related programs happening around the state this fall will be listed as they are announced.

There is also a Reader’s Guide and Teacher’s Guide available for download for those who want to enhance their experience while reading.

“The selection reminds us that delight and hope are not only for smooth sailing,” Maryland Humanities Executive Director Lindsey Baker said in a statement. She hopes the selection will be one to bring people together across the state and remind them of hope in uncertain times.

Gay was born in Youngstown, Ohio, and grew up in Levittown, Pa. He studied at Lafayette College, Sarah Lawrence College, and Temple University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctorate, respectively.

Gay started writing the essays that would become “The Book of Delights” in 2016 on his 42nd birthday, and wrote an essay each day for the next year.

He told National Public Radio’s All Things Considered host Ari Shapiro that when he began writing the essays, he initially thought he would have to “scrounge for delights” to write about. But he quickly began accumulating notebooks full of them.

“I mean, the thing that I also discovered in the course of writing this is that so much of what, to me, sort of inspired or uncovered or unveiled delight was so often personal interactions,” Gay said in that interview. “So I became acutely aware that delight is sort of a manifestation of interdependence.”